MUSCATINE, Iowa — An owl, a hawk, and a bald eagle were some of the raptors to visit Muscatine's riverfront on Saturday, and residents enjoyed a presentation about the majestic creatures.
Elly Cowan, a naturalist with Wildlife Prairie Park, and Joe Hand, a volunteer naturalist at the park, brought five raptors to the Pearl City Station and introduced residents to the birds. Cowan said she hopes by doing educational programs like the one on Saturday, they will help raise awareness of the animals' habitats and help people feel more connected to them.
"We do hope that with some of our birds that are on the threatened or endangered list that people will become more aware of, like before you cut down that tree check for a nest or maybe if you can put nest boxes on your property," she said.
The park also runs heavily on volunteer help, Cowan said, so she hopes some of those watching the presentation may become interested on helping at the park.
"And then just seeing the look of wonder on people's faces, especially when they come up to the park and they've never seen a deer before because they live in the city," she said. "Just being able to educate kids that science and nature is cool, that's huge."
Cowan and Hand told the more than 20 guests to the educational program about how Ollie, a barred owl, Jessie, a barn owl, Mo, a turkey vulture, Scarlet, a red-tailed hawk, and Mikitcha, a bald eagle, came to the park.
Mikitcha was around eight months old when he was shot in Illinois, Cowan said. The injury to his wing has made him unable to fly, so now he travels with naturalists to help raise awareness of the protected species.
Hand has been working with Mikitcha since 2001, and he said he hopes people will see the eagle is still wild. Hand said even when Mikitcha is sitting on his gloved hand, he would not let Hand reach out to touch him.
"They may think they're pets and they're not," he said.
Although eagles are more spread out this year due to a lack of ice on the river, Cindy Klebe, a ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and an organizer for the Eagle Watch event, said they will still spend time near the dams along the Mississippi because fish are easier to snag in the area.
"So we'll still see some around but just not as congregated," she said.
Although eagles are no longer endangered, they are still a protected species. Klebe said she hopes the Eagle Watch event will highlight the importance of protecting eagles and their habitat.
"We hope it continues to stress to the public that the eagle habitat is still around, we want to protect that habitat," she said. "And the efforts that the environmental organizations and the DNR and the Fish and Wildlife Service are making is actually working."